GIS - 13 November, 2013: Our objective is to get better results in terms of human lives and resources saved and combat the resurgence of new infections. New means and strategies have to be chalked out to fight HIV/AIDS in an effective and efficient manner.
This was the gist of the message of the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo, at the official opening of the 12th Colloque VIH/SIDA Océan Indien this morning at the Intercontinental Hotel in Balaclava.
Organised by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, in collaboration with the National AIDS Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the three-day colloquium brings together around 125 delegates from the Member States of the Indian Ocean Commission, including Ministers and policy makers as well as eminent Professors from France.
In his address, the Minister recalled that real opportunities to change the course of the HIV/AIDS exist given that it has been established that prevention, treatment and care of the infection are closely linked. The total number of HIV/AIDS cases in Mauritius from 1987 to September 2013 is 5 696, out of which 710 people have died. The prevalence of the infection among those aged over 15 years is estimated at 1,02% in 2013.
While referring to the exponential growth of HIV/AIDS between 2003 and 2005, Mr Bundhoo said that a large number of cases were registered among Injecting Drug Users. Several measures have been taken to respond effectively to this epidemic, he said.
The measures include the setting up of the National AIDS Secretariat under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office; the formulation of the National Multisectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework; introduction of Harm Reduction measures namely the Methadone Substitution Therapy and the Needle Exchange Programme in 2006; enactment of the HIV and AIDS Act in 2007; and Decentralisation of Voluntary Counselling and Testing at Primary Health Care Level.
“Indeed, we are seeing a steady and significant decline in new HIV cases detected: 401 cases have been registered in 2011 and 321 in 2012 as compared to the average of 540 cases registered annually for the past six years , with a peak of 925 cases in 2005. This means a decrease of 25% to 30% of new infections. This trend is continuing with 188 cases during the period January to September this year”, said Minister Bundhoo.
As regards stigmatisation and discrimination, these two factors represent major obstacles for people who undergo HIV testing, and affect directly the adoption of behaviours related to HIV prevention. On that score, Mauritius has for the first time conducted a study - Stigma Index - with a view to assess the degree of stigmatisation and discrimination perceived by people living with the infection. The findings will assist the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life to evaluate their interventions and to take corrective measures.
For her part the Head of Immunological Clinical service of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire from Reunion Island, Dr Catherine Gaud, said that since the detection of the first case of HIV/AIDS in 1987, significant progress has been noted in the islands of the Indian Ocean. There is, however, need for a global response and continue to fight to prevent the disease. Many problems still prevail, namely discrimination and stigmatisation, social and psychological problems and lack of referral doctors, she added.
Colloque VIH/SIDA Océan Indien
The 12th Colloque VIH/SIDA Océan Indien is being held under the theme Redynamisons la riposte.
The goals of the workshop are to update the knowledge and management of HIV infection and share the best practices and experiences among scientists, medical and paramedical practitioners, the civil society, non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Another objective is to strengthen existing cooperation amongst IOC Member States in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The colloquium will comprise a scientific programme, a social programme and plenary sessions. Workshops on different issues of HIV and related matters will be held on the last day of the colloquium.
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